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Worried about my degree choice

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    I've had quite a turbulent year - after dropping out of medical school, I applied to studied Liberal Arts, then after 2 days of that changed my course to German and beginner's Spanish.*I wanted to do French but I only did it to GCSE (thanks, med school) and they don't offer it for beginners, which I am pretty gutted about.
    *
    Although I am happy with this course, I am massively bothered that I am not studying 2 post A-level languages, and therefore won't be able to pick up a third language in my second year. How much will this affect me if I decide on a career in translation or teaching? I just feel like French is really essential in the UK, and I'm worried that not having taken French A-level is going to mess up my life....

    (Apologies if this sounds melodramatic, I'm just feeling quite lost at the moment.)
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    A few universities offer beginners French (mostly in Scotland), but I suppose it's too late now.

    You can certainly go into translation if you learn German and Spanish. I don't think not knowing French will impact your career, after all, German is (along with French and English) one of the three working languages of the EU. That said, there is nothing stopping you from learning French on your own, your university Language Centre will probably offer evening classes, or at the very least, facilities for you to learn the language yourself.

    This video might interest you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR4muJrmY2Y
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    (Original post by Snufkin)
    A few universities offer beginners French (mostly in Scotland), but I suppose it's too late now.

    You can certainly go into translation if you learn German and Spanish. I don't think not knowing French will impact your career, after all, German is (along with French and English) one of the three working languages of the EU. That said, there is nothing stopping you from learning French on your own, your university Language Centre will probably offer evening classes, or at the very least, facilities for you to learn the language yourself.

    This video might interest you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DR4muJrmY2Y

    Thank you, that's very reassuring my main concern is that if I decide to go into teaching, not doing French will probably be a problem as that's the language most schools do? I assume that to teach it I'd need a degree in it*
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    (Original post by mangafreak)
    Thank you, that's very reassuring my main concern is that if I decide to go into teaching, not doing French will probably be a problem as that's the language most schools do? I assume that to teach it I'd need a degree in it*
    I think you could easily find a job just teaching German and Spanish. But you definitely don't need a degree in French to teach it, speaking it is enough - you don't even need to be fluent to teach 11-16. It is not uncommon for MFL teachers to teach a language they only have an A level in. I remember my French teacher studied Spanish and Italian at uni. :lol:

    Also, you could do one of these: https://getintoteaching.education.go...nt-ske-courses
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    (Original post by Snufkin)
    I think you could easily find a job just teaching German and Spanish. But you definitely don't need a degree in French to teach it, speaking it is enough - you don't even need to be fluent to teach 11-16. It is not uncommon for MFL teachers to teach a language they only have an A level in. I remember my French teacher studied Spanish and Italian at uni. :lol:

    Also, you could do one of these: https://getintoteaching.education.go...nt-ske-courses
    Ooh thank you so much, that's really helpful this makes me feel so much better! I didn't even know about the SKE courses!*
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    (Original post by Snufkin)
    I think you could easily find a job just teaching German and Spanish. But you definitely don't need a degree in French to teach it, speaking it is enough - you don't even need to be fluent to teach 11-16. It is not uncommon for MFL teachers to teach a language they only have an A level in. I remember my French teacher studied Spanish and Italian at uni. :lol:

    Also, you could do one of these: https://getintoteaching.education.go...nt-ske-courses
    I don't think there are as many schools where you could get a job teaching German and Spanish as they are often taught as second languages to French so may be taught at the same time.

    French is an asset in teaching for exactly the reasons you gave.

    I know there are people teaching French who only have A level but they often struggle with doing oral work and obviously will not be upto teaching A level . This alone will restrict your career prospects. They tend to rely on worksheets. ( A sure sign of the less than confident languages' teacher.) This is usually because unless you have spent quite a long time in a French speaking country ( 1 year?) your fluency will just not be upto scratch.

    This is no doubt why the British are not great at languages - they have poorly qualified teachers,( and the school timetable often militates against language teaching - forcing language teaching into 2 or at most 3 lessons of 1+ hours a week instead of a shorter lesson every day which is vital for effective languages' teaching.)

    You most certainly do need to be fluent to teach 11-16 year olds. You also do need a lot more than just to be able to speak it! French is a very precise, complex language grammatically and requires a lot of intense study if you are to be qualified to teach it. The SKE courses are mainly 8-12 week courses which are better than nothing but in reality 'sticking plaster' to cover the desperate shortage of properly qualified teachers. The idea that in 8-12 weeks you could compensate for a lack of a degree in the subject is laughable.

    You also need to be aware that your promotion prospects may be less if you don't have French as a language. Most Heads of Languages Departments in Secondary Schools will be expected to have French.
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    (Original post by pickup)
    I don't think there are as many schools where you could get a job teaching German and Spanish as they are often taught as second languages to French so may be taught at the same time.

    French is an asset in teaching for exactly the reasons you gave.

    I know there are people teaching French who only have A level but they often struggle with doing oral work and obviously will not be upto teaching A level . This alone will restrict your career prospects. They tend to rely on worksheets. ( A sure sign of the less than confident languages' teacher.) This is usually because unless you have spent quite a long time in a French speaking country ( 1 year?) your fluency will just not be upto scratch.

    This is no doubt why the British are not great at languages - they have poorly qualified teachers,( and the school timetable often militates against language teaching - forcing language teaching into 2 or at most 3 lessons of 1+ hours week instead of a shorter lesson a day which is vital for effective languages' teaching.)

    You most certainly do need to be fluent to teach 11-16 year olds. You also do need a lot more than just to be able to speak it! French is a very precise, comlex language grammatically and requires a lot of intense study if you are to be qualified to teach it.

    You also need to be aware that your promotion prospects may be less if you don't have French as a language. Most Heads of Languages Departments in Secondary Schools will be expected to have French.
    I have to disagree.

    If the OP was only studying German then they may well have problems getting a teaching job, but they're not - Spanish is an in-demand subject, not quite as useful as French but not far off.

    A teacher who speaks another romance language and has a B2 (A level) standard of French could easily teach GCSE and below, they would not struggle with oral work and would not need to rely on worksheets.

    And as I say, there is ample opportunity for the OP to learn French at university even if she isn't studying it as part of her degree. That's what language centres are for! The OP could do a British Council teaching placement in France after they've finished their degree if they felt their French needed that extra boost, but I don't think it is necessary.
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    (Original post by Snufkin)
    I have to disagree.

    If the OP was only studying German then they may well have problems getting a teaching job, but they're not - Spanish is an in-demand subject, not quite as useful as French but not far off.

    A teacher who speaks another romance language and has a B2 (A level) standard of French could easily teach GCSE and below, they would not struggle with oral work and would not need to rely on worksheets.

    And as I say, there is ample opportunity for the OP to learn French at university even if she isn't studying it as part of her degree. That's what language centres are for! The OP could do a British Council teaching placement in France after they've finished their degree if they felt their French needed that extra boost, but I don't think it is necessary.
    So are you suggesting that a module a week in a language centre at Uni will be sufficient for teaching French? Without any prolonged residence in France say? Upto GCSE level? Well maybe if your expectations are very low for your teacher. (S)he needs to know that it would seriously limit his/her prospects career wise.

    Your suggestion of a placement as a English Language assistant through the British Council is a good one if the OP has considerable resources of resilience and determination. Without a very good level of French already, typically students do this after having done 2 years of a French degree, (s)he is likely to have a very testing year indeed. Teaching foreign teenagers is not easy in a language with which you are not very familiar. Coupled with social isolation and culture shock it requires considerable personal resources.
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    (Original post by pickup)
    So are you suggesting that a module a week in a language centre at Uni will be sufficient for teaching French? Without any prolonged residence in France say? Upto GCSE level? Well maybe if your expectations are very low for your teacher. (S)he needs to know that it would seriously limit his/her prospects career wise.

    Your suggestion of a placement as a English Language assistant through the British Council is a good one if the OP has considerable resources of resilience and determination. Without a very good level of French already, typically students do this after having done 2 years of a French degree, (s)he is likely to have a very testing year indeed. Teaching foreign teenagers is not easy in a language with which you are not very familiar. Coupled with social isolation and culture shock it requires considerable personal resources.
    Of course it is sufficient, more than sufficient. It is possible to become fluent in a language by studying at a language centre, I'm not sure why you think it isn't. Typically students at these centres will have the same number of contact hours with language tutors as students on language degree programmes.

    We are not likely to agree so I'm going to copy in Angeli and Carnationlilyrose to see what they think.
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    Drat, I copied in the wrong person. :lol: Tries again. Angelil
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    My first job included teaching year 7 French with only an A level that I had taken 6 years before, and at that point I had never been to France. It was sprung upon me as a nasty surprise after I'd accepted the job. It was a pretty difficult experience. However, that was more than 30 years ago, and things have changed a bit since then.

    My experience in my most recent school has been that language teachers do spread about across the department a bit, but most offer two languages and teach both of them. German is a dying subject in many schools, alas, but Spanish is thriving, and there will be plenty of opportunity for a languages teacher offering it, since languages generally are a massive shortage area. French is the most common language to learn, but that means there are going to be more teachers of it, and I really can't see having German and Spanish instead being a disadvantage. There will be other teachers who can teach the French. However, Angelil is more relevant on this topic than I am.
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    (Original post by Snufkin)
    Of course it is sufficient, more than sufficient. It is possible to become fluent in a language by studying at a language centre, I'm not sure why you think it isn't. Typically students at these centres will have the same number of contact hours with language tutors as students on language degree programmes.

    We are not likely to agree so I'm going to copy in Angeli and Carnationlilyrose to see what they think.
    If the OP is doing a degree in another subject (s)he will have maybe upto 3 hours a week on a beginners' French course, typically for 2 semesters. Manchester Uni eg says,

    Learning outcomes

    Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

    understand short, simple messages and announcements;
    read short simple texts and find specific information;
    communicate in simple, routine situations; and
    write simple notes, messages and short personal letters. (Of course the next year they will progress but we are just not in the same ball park as a degree student in French).

    Does this equate to a student on a languages' degree course who starts with an A level in French and who is not only having maybe 5 hours week tutoring in translation,( theme and version ), explication de texte, essay writing, conversation classes - having spent maybe 12 hours a week preparing for the lessons? Then who is spending the rest of the time reading books and writing essays in French on a range of topics from politics, philosophy, literature, history etc. and will spend a year at least living in France?

    Fluency is in the eye of the beholder. There's fluency as in 'I can make a simple comment about the weather and my family and ask the way to the station' and with luck I can understand what a French person says in reply 25-50% of the time, and there is fluency as in 'I can write a complex essay on professional topics or discussing literature and I can hold my own in a proper conversation with a native'.

    I have some idea of what is involved in beginners' classes ( I have done them) a languages' degree ( done one) , British Council English exchange ( done it), teaching languages ( done it), teacher training ( that too) organising a languages' department ( done it ), how well / badly 'qualified' languages' teachers can be ( yes I know that).
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    (Original post by pickup)
    If the OP is doing a degree in another subject (s)he will have maybe upto 3 hours a week on a beginners' French course, typically for 2 semesters. Manchester Uni eg says,

    Learning outcomes

    Upon successful completion of the course, students should be able to:

    understand short, simple messages and announcements;
    read short simple texts and find specific information;
    communicate in simple, routine situations; and
    write simple notes, messages and short personal letters. (Of course the next year they will progress but we are just not in the same ball park as a degree student in French).

    Does this equate to a student on a languages' degree course who starts with an A level in French and who is not only having maybe 5 hours week tutoring in translation,( theme and version ), explication de texte, essay writing, conversation classes - having spent maybe 12 hours a week preparing for the lessons? Then who is spending the rest of the time reading books and writing essays in French on a range of topics from politics, philosophy, literature, history etc. and will spend a year at least living in France?

    Fluency is in the eye of the beholder. There's fluency as in 'I can make a simple comment about the weather and my family and ask the way to the station' and with luck I can understand what a French person says in reply 25-50% of the time, and there is fluency as in 'I can write a complex essay on professional topics or discussing literature and I can hold my own in a proper conversation with a native'.

    I have some idea of what is involved in beginners' classes ( I have done them) a languages' degree ( done one) , British Council English exchange ( done it), teaching languages ( done it), teacher training ( that too) organising a languages' department ( done it ), how well / badly 'qualified' languages' teachers can be ( yes I know that).
    Assuming the OP went to Manchester, they wouldn't do the beginners course - the website says people with a good GCSE grade start on the Intermediate course. In Year 2 the OP would do Further French, and then in Year 4 they'd progress to Advanced French (C1/C2 standard, i.e. fluent). It won't be easy, but with dedication, it is absolutely possible to leave university fluent in a language having only used the language centre. I know people who have done precisely that.

    Around 3/4 of a language student's time is taken up studying the literature, culture, politics etc of the countries where their language is spoken. Very interesting of course, but not necessary to teach a language in school. You used Manchester as an example, well Manchester's French degree only has 1 French Language module in each year of the degree (worth 20 credits out of 120), 1 hour oral, 2 hours written skills. I see no reason why the OP couldn't do 3 hours a week at a language centre.
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    There isn't a strict divide between studying the language and studying the culture - you are after all studying the culture in the language, reading the books in French. So if you are doing 20 hours studying the culture , you are of course effectively studying 20 hours extra language too, indeed a lot more for you will be reading criticism books etc. in French too. Every essay you write will also be in French too.

    As I tried to explain the 2 hours for example written skills doesn't mean people are doing 2 hours on language written skills each week.To do an average translation they will have to spend at least 3 hours. maybe much more. The 1 hour mentioned for the course will be the lecturer discussing different points of translation, the variables etc. Those 3 hours are in fact at least 9 hours hours, could be 12.

    If you start with the Intermediate Course Yr1 - you need a good GCSE, Yr 2 Intermediate you need AS level equivalent, Yr 3 Post Intermediate you need an A level equivalent. So at the end of year 3 you have at best the equivalent of what the French degree people have at the end of their 1st year, ( probably a lot less because they will not have been spending only 3 notional hours on language skills but another 20 notional hours, plus, too.) The C1 level is another year, 4th year, for the Post Intermediate student so at best equivalent to what a degree student has at the end of their year 2 ( in reality nothing like as good, see above). This is before a degree student has worked in France for a year and come back to do their final 4th year.

    The quality of teaching you get from the degree person is much better. As with many subjects, poorly qualified people just don't know enough to give high quality teaching from the off.

    I am more worried that people who do these language school course are told that they could have a good career in teaching when in the real world they will only be able to get the lowest level teaching jobs and be stuck with little career progression.The graduates will get the promotions and heads of Department because only they can teach AS or A level to University entrance .
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    (Original post by pickup)
    There isn't a strict divide between studying the language and studying the culture - you are after all studying the culture in the language, reading the books in French. So if you are doing 20 hours studying the culture , you are of course effectively studying 20 hours extra language too, indeed a lot more for you will be reading criticism books etc. in French too. Every essay you write will also be in French too.

    As I tried to explain the 2 hours for example written skills doesn't mean people are doing 2 hours on language written skills each week.To do an average translation they will have to spend at least 3 hours. maybe much more. The 1 hour mentioned for the course will be the lecturer discussing different points of translation, the variables etc. Those 3 hours are in fact at least 9 hours hours, could be 12.

    If you start with the Intermediate Course Yr1 - you need a good GCSE, Yr 2 Intermediate you need AS level equivalent, Yr 3 Post Intermediate you need an A level equivalent. So at the end of year 3 you have at best the equivalent of what the French degree people have at the end of their 1st year, ( probably a lot less because they will not have been spending only 3 notional hours on language skills but another 20 notional hours, plus, too.) The C1 level is another year, 4th year, for the Post Intermediate student so at best equivalent to what a degree student has at the end of their year 2 ( in reality nothing like as good, see above). This is before a degree student has worked in France for a year and come back to do their final 4th year.

    The quality of teaching you get from the degree person is much better. As with many subjects, poorly qualified people just don't know enough to give high quality teaching from the off.

    I am more worried that people who do these language school course are told that they could have a good career in teaching when in the real world they will only be able to get the lowest level teaching jobs and be stuck with little career progression.The graduates will get the promotions and heads of Department because only they can teach AS or A level to University entrance .
    I've never heard of students having to write their cultural, non-language modules essays in the target language. I take your point that by studying French cinema, literature or history you are developing language skills, but I don't agree that it makes a significant difference to your overall level of fluency.

    After completing the Intermediate course, you can either go into Post-Intermediate or Further French, depending on how well you did (at least, that's how the description reads to me). I think it’s a bit much to suggest that after three years of studying French at a university language centre, you will only reach A level standard. I think we will have to agree to disagree on that point.

    The fact is with a degree in a romance language and a GCSE in French (and probably more than that if the OP makes use of the language centre), the the OP would very likely be allowed to take a SKE in French and teach the subject, whether you approve or not.
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    Thanks for the mention @CarnationLily and @Snufkin; sorry for the late reply, but rather aptly I have been in the south of France this week taking 113 kids on a school trip there

    Full disclosure: I have never taught French in a formal capacity in a British secondary school. The closest I came to doing this was volunteering as a TA for 3 months in a class studying GCSE French in a school in Oxford 8 years ago. My 'trade' is teaching English language and literature at native-speaker level, which I currently do at an international school in France - although I have taught ESL to native French speakers too (and indeed to students of other nationalities, ranging from Italian to Japanese).

    Context: I was very lucky in my acquisition of French. My parents took me on holidays there from when I was born and I then learned the language in school from age 10 to 18. When I was 18 I then met the (French) man who would become my husband. Throughout my time at university I was heavily involved in the the activities of the French Society (which included acting in a Molière medley), while concurrently, of course, spending time with him indoors and his family. My husband's English is excellent (better than my French - and ironically we speak English at home) but his family's English was very limited - so all of our stays with his family have been strictly francophone. So I was practising and acquiring the language in an authentic setting for many years before finally moving to France in 2008, thus meaning that I never really went through a stage where I struggled significantly with French (although a natural tendency towards finding languages easy in general probably helped with that).

    Now that I am going for French nationality (thanks Brexit ) I have had to take a language test to prove my fluency (just to get to the point of what this thread is actually about ). So what do the French themselves regard as fluency? As already mentioned on this thread, A Level French is considered roughly B2 on the European Common Framework for Languages. The minimum required for citizenship is actually only B1 so you are essentially just proving you can string a sentence together/get by on what is a relatively basic level. (I measure at C1 for speaking and C2 for comprehension for what it's worth ) So it's true that everyone has different ideas about what fluency means.

    I wouldn't worry about only being able to teach German or Spanish to A Level standard. Both languages are in demand in UK schools. There is no denying that knowledge of French would add an additional string to your bow. A SKE wouldn't hurt, but as others have said, it's not enough on its own, and speaking for myself, I would not feel comfortable teaching ANY subject where I felt I was barely one step ahead of the kids. So I would say that it is worth studying French in your spare time (via a multi-pronged approach) as a hobby/to pimp your CV with the possible eventual goal of also being able to teach this language, even if it's only at KS3 (but go with your gut; if you don't feel comfortable teaching it, then don't, or the kids will suffer). Plus it's good for your brain so

    Side note: I would not say that it's the exact piece of paper you've got that proves your fluency that matters; it's also about your personal aptitude for languages. As mentioned above, I was very involved in the French Society while at university. This meant I worked closely with a significant number of students who actually studied the language at university level (which, NB, I did not do - Classics and English were the joint focuses of my degree). However, despite this, I was shocked by the paucity of some of their skills, which included pronouncing 'chevaux' as 'cheveux' (which makes a difference! A quite basic mispronuncation) So I would say that it's not necessarily getting a degree in the language that matters, as there are always other official certificates you can obtain later on to prove your level (most popular in France, which I think are also recognised internationally, are the DELF [Diplôme d'Etudes de la Langue Française] and the TCF [Test de Connaissance de Français]; it's the latter that I had to get in order to acquire French nationality).

    Finally, though, I would say that it's living in a country that definitely makes the difference. My French improved exponentially after coming to live here and I have had some French people tell me (not family!) that I speak their language without a foreign accent. On that basis I would definitely recommend the British Council placement route, although a word of warning about them: you really have to not care where you go. I applied for a placement with them, and they warn you that as accommodation in the Paris area is difficult to secure, you should already have connections there (or even accommodation already set up). As my husband was already living there I put this area as my first choice. My second choice was also in the Paris area (probably Versailles or something like that). My third choice was in the south of France as I figured I could live with my inlaws if necessary. However, you are not supposed to put down more than one choice from the same administrative zone (which obviously with my first choice I had). But given their caveat about accommodation and the detailed explanation that I enclosed about family accommodation already being available for me in those areas, I had thought that the British Council would consider my application sensibly. However, they rejected me flat out, purely on this technicality (I am not speculating; they told me directly that this was the reason). So apply - living in France is a great experience and will improve your language skills massively (more than being in a classroom ever could) but follow their instructions to the letter.

    Sorry for the essay Do let me know if you have any more questions though!
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    Would a joint modern languages degree in Spanish and Portuguese hinder me if I wanted to teach in the future? I realise that not many schools, if any, teach Portuguese so does this mean I wouldn't be accepted onto a PGCE? Thank you.
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    You would almost certainly be accepted onto a PGCE to teach Spanish, so I wouldn't worry about that.
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    (Original post by Angelil)
    You would almost certainly be accepted onto a PGCE to teach Spanish, so I wouldn't worry about that.
    Thanks for your reply Angelli that's very reassuring. I just hope Portuguese won't limit my teaching job opportunites.

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